GUEST BLOG WITH WENDY LLOYD CURLEY – Improvisation To Improve Your Business Networking Skills

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Business Building Musts, Interviews, Small Business Help

Improvisation is creating spontaneously or without preparation. Working without a script. Playing without sheet music. Running the play to the left when everyone planned on you running it to the right. Making stuff up out of thin air.

In “Whose line is it Anyway?” four comedians are put into situations by the audience and asked to perform on the spot. Making stuff up out of thin air.

But are they really?

Whether you are a comedian, an actor, a musician, play a sport, or run a business, great improvisation is actually the result of repetition, practice, and skill.

None of that sounds spontaneous.

Will learning improvisation techniques help you when you’re networking? Let’s find out.

In your business, have you ever been listening to someone talk and wished that you could press the record button so that you could repeat what they’ve said over and over again until it flows from your lips as effortlessly as it does from theirs?

I used to have that experience listening to trainers in my sales organisation. They would conduct role plays to share how to deal with customer calls, questions, or feedback. Every word that would come out of their mouths came out with such ease. They could laugh, smile, and be serious in all the right moments. They could share fantastic stories and appropriate facts. They could overcome objections with ease.

Their improvisational skills were incredible. No matter what we threw at them, they we able to respond.

But we they really improvising?

They were. But they could because they had repeated and practiced their answers so often that they had developed the skills to improvise. Just like the guitar player who can improvise a solo without ever hearing a song before, the well skilled sales person can play all the right notes ant all the right times.

And so can you when you are networking.

Networking requires skill. In order to improvise, you need to prepare well. You need to listen well. You need to respond well. You need to follow-up well.

Preparation

One key to good networking is to be acutely aware of your unique selling proposition and your target market. This requires you to study your market, understand your competition, and be able to create a very clear picture of what you have to offer.

Another key is to be aware of the other businesses who serve your target market before you do. What do your clients generally do BEFORE they engage your services? For example, if you are an architect, your clients generally purchase or own land or an existing home. So they have used or been exposed to a real estate agent, a mortgage broker, a pest or building inspector, a property lawyer, and maybe a removalist. Any one of those businesses might learn about the architectural needs of the homeowner and would be in a good position to recommend you. I call that a great referral opportunity.

Another key is to be aware of the other businesses who serve your target market after you do. What do your clients generally need AFTER they engage your services. For example, if you are a web designer, your clients generally run a business. So for their website, they may need a marketing and advertising strategy, a photographer, a video company, a graphic design firm, a copywriter, or a merchant bank. You would be in a good position to recommend any of those businesses to your clients. I call that a great referral opportunity.

Preparation in networking means understanding who you are, and who you want to meet.

Listening

Comedians listen closely when they improvise with another comedian in order to weave a compelling story, and so must a strong networker. The key is to ask good questions and guide the conversation in the direction that the answers take you. I personally recommend approaching a networking conversation by finding out as much as you can about their USP and their target market and seeing if you can help them make a good connection through you. In BNI we call this Givers Gain and it really makes a networking conversation much easier to start.

“How can I help you?”

Responding

Conversations are, by definition two-way, so it makes sense to be able to respond to people’s questions about you or your business. This is where the preparation comes in extra handy. However, here a few conversation pointers.

Making sure you understand. Before you respond, clarify the question or summarise the situation. Not only does this ensure that you respond correctly, it gives you time to frame your (improvised) answer.

Appreciate their time. A good conversation is one where there is back and forth. Stringing together sentences with conjunctions and fillers (uns and ahs) without inviting or allowing the other party to contribute is boring and unhelpful. Have you ever been on the phone with someone who won’t stop talking? You can hold the phone away from your ear for an uncomfortable amount of time without them realising that you’re missing. Well, when that happens in real life while networking, the person will still check out mentally. You won’t be making a connection. They’ll be trying to think how to move on.

Follow-Up

Networking situations are not where relationships are solidified, they are where they are born. Your job is to determine who is worth more of your time and how can you move forward to ensure they feel the same. You are looking for smart follow-up opportunities. Ways to reconnect with people who can help you grow or strengthen your business. Sometimes great people may need a few connections before you will be able to move toward a deeper relationship. Your improvisational skills will develop here as you think about ways to touch base that will add value to your relationships. It might be connecting on social media. It might be sending an article that addresses a topic you were discussing. It might be inviting them to another event so that they can meet someone else (and you can introduce them). It might be a social follow-up. Which one is right? You’ll know if you’ve listened well.

One good connection is all you need. As long as you follow-up.

Really, is improvisation really improvisation? Or is it you showing off your practiced skills? In the end, if you prepare, listen, respond, and follow-up enough, people will listen to you while you network and they will want to record what you say because it will come out perfectly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The founder of Strategic Networking and Executive Director of BNI Sydney North East, Wendy Lloyd Curley is passionate about people getting results, helping others and having fun when they are networking. She believes that too often people attend networking events, groups, and activities with little or no results. And she wants to change that.

With extensive experience in professional networking organisations, business telecommunications companies, marketing, direct to consumer sales, training, and hospitality, Wendy has a robust and unique perspective that translates well for people in all industries. Through this work, she also understands the marketing and networking needs and concerns for start-ups, small business, franchise operations, and large corporates.

She has been a mentor and coach to hundreds of business owners and continues to serve as an advisor to several business founders. She contributed to the bestselling book, Building the Ultimate Network, and is about to publish her first book on Strategic Networking: Stop Wasting Your Time Networking. Wendy has an MBA from Arizona State University and a Masters of International Management from The American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird).

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Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

 

Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

 

Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

 

Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

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